Posted by: dtarnold | May 5, 2011

What is digital diversity?

What is digital diversity? It is a complicated question. with many possible answers, but the best way that I can describe it is citizenship in a digital community. Digital communities can be considered any digital media, whether you interact with other users directly or not. If you interact with other users you have to be able to make assumptions about who they are and what may or may not offend them. This can be difficult because you do not always have much or any information about who is on the other end of the speaker. If you are not interacting with other people directly through the media you are still interacting with the people who made the media and their cultural biases. This does not concern the users as much as it does the creators who would have to know which of the said cultural biases that might slip into their work could create a problem or offend people. This relates to differences in cultures. If some from the United States, which is a high content low context culture, builds a device for communication and sends it to people in Japan, which is a low content high context culture, it may be useless. This is because the minimalistic tendencies of communication in the United States could be considered disrespectful in a culture like Japan where how you say something is as important as what you are saying.

Since this definition includes all digital media it is becoming more and more encompassing because the presence of digital media is expanding at an exponential rate. There is a computing principle known as Moore’s Law which boils down to saying that the amount of abilities that can economically be added to computer hardware will double every 2 years. That analysis was made in 1965 and was projected to hold for 10 years. It is now over 35 years later, and it turns out that in actuality it is only taking about 18 months for computers to double in power. The trend has been consistent until this point and is projected to continue for the next ten years at least. This means that we can expect to continue to be inundated with more and more technological advances and we will become citizens in more and more digital communities.

Works cited for both the movie and for this blog post:

Ess, Charles. Digital Media Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009.

Nelson, Alondra, ed, et al. Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Watkins, Craig. The Yound and the Digital. Boston: Beacon Press, 2009.

“Moore’s Law” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. 4 May 2004.

*note: I added links instead of underlining the titles because it was as close as I could get and I used wikipedia even though most teachers hate it because it seemed fitting for use with this course.

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Posted by: dtarnold | April 26, 2011

Reflections on a group project

On our most recent group project we mostly worked individually. We started by dividing the topic of digital sweatshops into different aspects to research and then researching the assigned topic individually. After doing so we met a couple of times to talk about what we had found, revise the research topics, and then research the revised subtopics or continue research if the sub topic was not revised. In doing our research we also came up with ideas for how to make our presentation better and other things that we could incorporate into our presentation to make it better. All in all this was more of a collaboration of individual projects under the same general idea than a group project. A lot of this had to do with various circumstances. Jazmine had a basketball tournament the week that we were assigned our project and that caused her to miss the beginning of the project, and due to some technical difficulties we were unable to get in touch with her for a week. Also half of our group had to take the fundamentals of engineering exam. This exam took 8 hours to complete and in most cases the examinees spend many, many hours studying for it. Since this is a pretty big deal I know that I did not spend much time on this project the week leading up to the FE and I am fairly sure that the other two group members taking the exam studied quite hard for it as well meaning that they did not have as much time to work on the group project.With these two circumstances the majority of the group lost at least a week of individual study and the overall group dynamic was of a discontinuous nature forcing us to do most of our work individually on our specified topics. This was the main reason why we did not have more components of our presentation that incorporated multiple group members.

But all in all it turned out pretty well and everyone ended up completing the work that they needed to complete. The end result was not overly flashy but it worked. If I had to change anything the only thing that I would have changed would be getting Jazmine’s email the first day so that she could have been able to work while at her tournament and having us all exchange phone numbers as well as emails because it was decided that email would be adequate for communication and when complications arose it was not always sufficient to notify everyone of last-minute changes. However all in all I think that we gave a clear and concise presentation with well supported points supporting a well thought out thesis.

Posted by: dtarnold | April 18, 2011

Media Multitasking and our Everyday Life.

A glimpse of my media usage

The above is a glimpse of my usage of modern forms of media, tracked daily over a weeks use.  The total time that was spent using the various types of media was 31 hours, averaging to about four and a half hours a day. This goes to show the influence that modern technology has on our daily life.

If we analyze any part of our life we will see that there is a profound affect that modern media plays in it. For instance herpetology is a hobby of mine. I raise and own pet reptiles. It may not seem like this is a very media intensive activity, and for the most part it is not. However if you look more in depth you see the role that modern media plays in it. Because this hobby is not overly common there are very few specialty stores in which deal in reptiles so finding enclosures, reptiles, and food is most readily done over the internet. Particularly larger reptiles that are not usually sold in pet stores such as savannah monitors and burmese pythons. I found my savannah monitor and my burmese python on craigslist as well as the cages for each of them.

If I were to decide to buy a large reptile today then I could go to a myriad of websites to find breeders, brokers, and resellers. Options that would not have been available just a couple of decades ago. Not just can I find them, but I can compare the prices and qualities of more sources than I can shake a stick at while listening to music, watching the television, and doing homework. We are able to media multitask to the point that Greg Watkins has said that “we have gone from a culture of instant gratification to one of constant gratification.” Not only are we doing everything at once, but we are doing it more than ever. It has become a way of life to do things all at once.  I could be looking at a new reticulated python while also thinking about what I am going to feed it, and I can do it all in 5 minutes. It is just part of what Watkins calls “bite sized entertainment”.

Posted by: dtarnold | April 1, 2011

A narrowing view of ourselves

Zadie Smith believes that Facebook is narrowing the identity of its users, and I have to agree with her. Facebook limits privacy to a handful of settings, and you are forced to fit everyone into one of those. For many people there is quite a lot of information that they may want to share with some people but not other people, so they are forced to limit what they write on their Facebook’s to only what they feel comfortable sharing with everyone. Mark Zuckerberg said “By giving people power to share, we’re making the world more transparent.” That is not necessarily a good thing.

Facebook is much a some of its predecessors such as MySpace and Friendster, and I believe that that is why it has managed to expand and last beyond them. Facebook is appealing to everyone, not just teens and college students. In “The Social Network” the character of Sean Parker says “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” Now more and more people are.

Charles Ess points out that these shifts in society can have a negative affect on people who choose not to be part of them. “Being ‘on the grid’ is now the norm, such that being off the grid or offline can signal a positive desire not to communicate”. This can pressure people who do not have a Facebook to get a Facebook. This can cause more people to spend more time on Facebook. Now it has become so prominent that Facebook is how most people who know each other see each other. A very narrow view that lists facts about us as if those facts encompass the whole of our existence.

S Greg Watkins points out that “for all that is seemingly new about social-networking sites, they do not appear to be radically altering the personal bonds and connections that young people make.” We still have good friends, friends, and acquaintances. But now we share the same information with acquaintances that we do with our good friends.

Posted by: dtarnold | March 11, 2011

Project research

For our project we were assigned the task of analyzing digital sweatshops answering a question that we created about them. Our initial question to start researching is how have digital sweatshops encouraged or discouraged the economic aspects of the digital divide. To answer this we first have to create definitions for the digital divide and digital sweatshops. The digital divide is the gap between people which has been created by technology. This includes many factors such as access to technology, the effects that electronic waste has on different communities, the different benefits and costs that technologies can have on different groups of people, and the working conditions that are spawned by creating technology. The digital divide is basically the term that describes the difference in technological development between different groups of people  accounting for the boosts that technological development brings to some people as well as the set backs that technological development brings to others. Digital sweatshops are sources of cheap labor that are accessed through the internet. Because of this global access anyone with a computer can have access to these jobs that can range from requiring slightly more cognitive ability than a computer has to large amounts of knowledge on the subject matter and deep understandings of it. Because of the large potential supply of the required labor the price of it has gone considerably down causing us to associate these practices with sweatshops.

For our initial research we will be looking at a variety of questions involving these digital sweatshops. We will look into who does the work. Is it done by women, men, children, adults, minorities, etc. We will look into what the working conditions typically are. Do these people work from a computer at home with all of the ergonomic benefits that come with that, do they work in a large room filled with other people doing the same thing without so much as a cushion to sit on, or is it something in between? Do they work in their spare time or do they have rigid working hours? We will look into where the work is done. Is it in the United States, China, Africa, or somewhere else? We will look into the pay scale of the employees and who profits the most from the labor because there are some companies that connect workers to the people looking for low level, low wage labor. So how much of the profit goes to the labor and how much goes to the agency? We will also be looking at what skills are required by the laborers. Do they need to speak English? Do they need to be able to use certain programs? Do they need an advanced knowledge of the human endocrine system? These are the types of questions that we will be looking at as a group to help us define the scope of what our project will be and what our focus will come to entail. We will be researching these questions with primarily internet sources due to the availability of material and how much easier it is to find recent material. This will include newspaper articles, journal articles, and whatever websites we can find relating to the subject matter.

I looked into the skills that are required for these digital sweatshops. The first thing that I noticed was that this type of work is not all as bad as the term “digital sweatshop” makes it sound. In fact there are places that appeal to niche markets such as digitalsweatshop.net which work as an employment network for skilled employees, in this case graphic designers. This still creates an environment with a large concentrated supply of labor, but it also lets the laborers show their past work and market themselves. There is also work for people who only want to play video games all day as demonstrated in this article about gold farming in China. Although it is much more like a standard job than it sounds at first it is a way for a person to support their self  when all you are qualified to do or all they are able to get their self to do is play video games for 10 hours a day. There is also the market of surveys. Sites like this one offer to pay you to complete surveys about various things and there is not likely to be a shortage of people who want to get paid to give their opinions. So all in all there is a very diverse market for online labor that requires any number of skills to basically none other than operating a computer.

To see the other posts on our group topic see the blogs of Andrew Knudsen here, Greg Sanchez here, Jazmine Perkins here, Kevin Elkins here, and Samantha Damiano here.

Posted by: dtarnold | March 3, 2011

Violent Media and Aggression

The question has been asked, do violent video games cause socially damaging desensitization to the players. This is a very tricky concept because there is no overwhelmingly correct answer due to the ambiguity in the term socially damaging desensitization. What is considered socially damaging? Can having a lack o social skills be considered socially damaging? Is having a lessened reaction to world violence a sign of being desensitized to it? Is it really such a bad thing to have a lessened reaction to violence when it does not cause the person to act out in a violent way? Or are these worries just reactions to “moral panics” (described by Charles Ess as “[attracting] our attention [by focusing] unduly on the sensational”)? The answers to these questions very greatly depending on personal bias, and none of the answers are either right nor are they wrong. They are all just points of view.

There is a lot of research on the subject, but due to the nature of the research it is extremely limited in scope. It is not feasible to conduct a long term, large scale study on the effects of violent video games without drastically interfering with lives of the participants. This causes all of the studies to be short term and in laboratory conditions which does not necessarily mean that they accurately represent what happens in the real world. But still there are reactions in the brain that are caused by violent images that show a reaction to the material and it is undeniable that there is a connection between aggression and media violence. So while there is a connection, there is no proof that it has any major negative effects like causing people to kill other people.

Grand Theft Auto screen shot

Posted by: dtarnold | March 2, 2011

The Digital Divide

Modern computer technology, in particular the internet, has changed pretty much how everything is done. If you want to buy something you can probably get the best price online. If you want to get information on something or someone it is easier to google it than to go to the library. If you are applying for a job most companies accept resumes almost exclusively via the internet. If you want to know what times a movie is playing at your local theater it is just as fast, or faster, to find it on the web compared to finding it in the paper. The internet has changed pretty much everything in first world countries. It has grown so prevalent that it is assumed that most people have access to the internet and its capabilities. This is a major problem for those who do not. It was once thought that the internet would act to equalize the gap between the upper and lower bounds of society because everyone would have access to the breadth of its capabilities, but since the lower classes do not have the same access to the internet “the gap between the information haves (the rich, white, Asian, and urban-dwelling populations) and the have-nots (the poor, Hispanic, black, American Indian, or rural-dwelling populations) is growing.”

Not only is the divide growing because some have more access to a more powerful tool, but it is also growing because the lowest of classes are being pushed back by the growing amount of waste that is being continually created. For instance the average life of a new computer is considered to be about 3-5 years. That means that for every laptop in the world there are two more that get “recycled” every decade, and that does not include growth in the market. If you are wondering why I put the word recycled in quotations that is because most of the recycled electronic waste, or e-waste, is not properly recycled. As Ghana: the Digital Dumping Ground shows most of the e-waste is not properly disposed of but instead salvaged by third world workers who burn through the toxic plastics to get to the metals inside. So for each new laptop someone buys it usually means an old laptop that is being burnt by a third world person who is working long hours in the toxic byproducts of getting to the meager amounts of valuables inside the computer.

One reason why the effects of the digital divide on third world countries is not know is because of the digital divide itself. Charles Ess points out that “for cross-cultural communication [there is an] obligation to become familiar with the cultures of the world” but since many of the people who are sorting through the e-waste do not have the tools to communicate via the internet it becomes impossible for them to communicate with other cultures and the problem of their substandard working conditions goes mostly unknown.

A child sorting through e-waste

Posted by: dtarnold | February 14, 2011

Technological Framework and Revolution

The internet carries the cultural biases of the people who created it. This is also true for the other technologies and websites that the internet encompasses. And most of these technologies and websites were created in North America and Europe which are High content/ Low context societies. So what does this mean? It means that the largest information sharing network that the world has ever seen carries the Western ideals of open access for all. It means that the amount of information that is available to everyone is so vast and is being generated so quickly that monitoring and censoring it is not possible without completely shutting it down. It also means that people are more connected with each other than ever before.

Egypt is a Country that has had their politicians in charge of the media for a long time, but now that the people can easily connect to each other through tools such as facebook the politicians cannot guide what the people are seeing. This is leading to openness about the corruption and poor living conditions of some of the people in the country that has caused massive revolts and protests. This got to the point where the people in charge of the country ordered that the internet be shut down.

The internet is based on open and free communication, which is a tenet of western culture. In this case it looks like letting this bit of western culture is leading to a better situation for the people of Egypt.

Posted by: dtarnold | February 2, 2011

The necessary loosening of copywrite laws

The idea of copyright is interesting to say the least. It started as a way of fostering creativity. Setting up advantages for creating intellectual property that would entice people to create it. But now all it seems to do is stifle creativity. In his book Digital Media Ethics, Charles Ess points out that modern media has become “greased” meaning that it is easy to get and transform from one platform to another. Similarly this makes the same media easy to alter and reshape within those different forms of media. Brett Gaylor’s documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto shows how artists can use this to create their own art, specifically in the case of music. Gaylor also points out that no art it completely original and all art is inspired by other art. This is where copyright becomes skewed. Copyright was originally set up to protect the interests of individuals, today the laws have changed so that now copyright laws protect the income of the corporations without regard to the individuals whose material is copyrighted.

This has gotten out of hand. I can understand wanting to get your fair share of your copyrighted material, but when songs such as “Happy Birthday” are still copyrighted a century after being written I think we can safely say that a line has been crossed. These laws have become counter indicative to their original purpose. Instead of supporting creativity they are squashing it. This is especially true for mix up artists who use current copyrighted material. I am not saying it is right or wrong to make money using the work of others, but there should be some sort of provision to protect amateurs who just want to use the music to enhance their art. Unfortunately a lot of the time this goes against laws that are unfairly set up to aid the representatives of the people who copyrighted the material without actually aiding the people who copyrighted the material. This is due to the lobbyists who are pressuring politicians for the sake of their own financial gain. The average person who this actually affects has no lobbyist to push his causes. This should change, and the only way that it can change is by pushing back on the politicians to create sensible copyright laws. As it stands if I were to copyright a jingle today and die tomorrow some entity that I have little to do with would use that jingle for 70 years in whatever way they wanted regardless of what I may have wanted, and that is just not right.

Posted by: dtarnold | January 25, 2011

The Internet and Politics

There is a lot of talk around the internet right now about how twitter helped take down the corrupt government in Tunisia, but the media is overstepping the truth in an attempt to attract attention. As Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times points out the real root causes of the revolution are the same root causes of most revolutions. Causes like corruption, civil unrest, economic stagnation, and a very unhappy population.

What should be noted, however, is the role the social media site played in making the revolution happen. In the past revolutions had come when the previously stated root causes forces people to get highly organized and revolt. That organization usually had to be highly secretive because the regimes that were revolted against were more often than not highly totalitarian and would squash any open resistance that they could find. But with the current state of social media on the internet such activism can be carried out far more easily from the comfort of the activist’s living room chair. Protests that used to take weeks or months to plan can now be set up in a matter of hours thanks to the speed of information in the digital age.

I think that what happened in Tunisia will become a lesson for future governments. If they want to suppress the abilities of the people to revolt then they will have to completely suppress the abilities of the citizens to use the internet to organize in any form. This will in turn cause the governments that are fearful of the people organizing and uprising to become even more controlling. Like it or not this is how I see some of the governments moving in the future.

If you would like to read more about twitter and other social media sites visit Shannon Flerchinger’s blog here.

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